Is Hybrid Learning More Effective than In-Person Training?

Is Hybrid Learning More Effective than In-Person Training?
June 26, 2012

A recent study reports that not only can hybrid learning platforms produce the same results as traditional, “classroom style” training, but in some cases they actually perform even better.

The report was put together by Matthew Chingos and the folks at Ithaka S+R. I should point out that the focus here is primarily on hybrid learning at higher education institutions and public universities. That said, the sample size (605 people participated) and depth of the findings shed a lot of light of how a wide variety of organizations can benefit from a hybrid approach.

First off – what is hybrid learning?

hybrid learning strategy is just what it sounds like: a little bit of both. In other words, classroom-style training and lectures aren’t completely replaced; they are just supplemented in certain areas with eLearning concepts. For the study, hybrid students were still privy to some one-on-one training, but the majority of their learning and course work was done online.

Judging the results

Statistically speaking, Chingos and company found no significant differences in the learning outcomes of traditional and hybrid students. In fact, in certain areas like pass rates and final exam scores, the hybrid group actually performed slightly better. (I should note that the study doesn’t draw any significance to these differences to the point that one approach can be judged as superior to the other, but still – it’s interesting to see.)

Another cool data point involves speed of learning. The report states that hybrid students took about 25% less time to achieve the same results (from a learning perspective) as traditional students. In the age of “let’s all get better faster,” those numbers are extremely encouraging. After all, time is money. Speaking of which…

The REAL hybrid benefits lie in dollar signs

While the study refrains from providing any specific numbers on the cost benefits of hybrid learning, it does make a few educated assumptions of what organizations can expect.

For example, the report notes that in most cases, the initial roll-out of an eLearning approach is likely to be more expensive to start. However once the process is in place, online content is better understood, and required staff understands how to use the technology, the long-term savings can be significant.

Productivity is another consideration here. As the report states, “a leading prototype hybrid learning system did not lead to a statistically significant increase in outputs (student learning), but could potentially increase productivity nonetheless by using fewer inputs—thereby achieving cost savings.”

In other words, while the results of the hybrid approach proved more or less equal to those of traditional learning, the flexibility of online training frees up more time for learners to do other things. Looking beyond higher ed, this is a huge consideration for businesses, as fewer meetings and more flexible schedules lead to more time for employees to do what they’re paid to do – their jobs.

The study also pays a lot of attention to physical room space. In a classroom setting, of course, fewer students require less space. If learners are spending more time online, than, theoretically, an organization can save money on the amount of room needed to house a particular class.

While this effect doesn’t carry over exactly the same way for company training, the influx of mobile workers is a major factor here. A well-baked hybrid learning approach can add more incentive for businesses to hire remote personnel, while being confident that those new hires will be trained appropriately. And of course, the costs saved on travel and scheduling for mobile workers is a huge draw as well.

Looking for more information on hybrid learning and training? Check out this post by Alice McMahon on developing a blended learning approach to save time and money. Also, check out this page to learn how on-demand video can improve your overall training strategies.